< Back to News

Anderson Center for Autism Honors 18 Graduates

Author Jack Howland
Date June 22, 2018

For Jamie Levine, coming to the Anderson Center for Autism about three years ago was the first time he truly left home.

The 21-year-old from Long Island had been living in educational group homes with other autistic kids since he was 10 years old, but those were always close to his parents, according to his mother, Debbie Levine. Moving him to Anderson’s residential high school, she said, was about giving him the round-the-clock help to help him “improve his quality of life” as he approaches adulthood.

She said driving with him to Staatsburg was “hard on us because we were moving our son so far away,” but “we knew it was to his benefit.”

On Friday afternoon, he joined 17 other students to graduate in a ceremony at the school in which they received diplomas alongside family.

“As much as it was difficult to travel far to see him, we are 100 percent happy with the decision we made,” Debbie Levine told the Journal before the ceremony. “I’m very excited to see him at graduation. I think it’s so nice that the children get to experience something that any typical child would experience.”

The ceremony honored the 18 graduating students, all of whom have Autism Spectrum Disorder, for their hard work and dedication in reaching this milestone.

Principal Andrew Dease said the small school of roughly 130 students is different from typical high schools, with “grade bins” instead of individual grades. The high school grade bin includes students who are 16 to 21 years old, and Rease said a big part of the curriculum is learning “functional academics” to become “as independent as possible.”

Many students also do job-training out in the community, including Jamie Levine, who cleans tables two days a week at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

“Every one of these kids have grown so much,” Rease said of the class of 2018. “You feel really happy for the parents….you get feedback from parents saying, ‘It was the hardest decision to send my student to you guys’…and then by the time we get to graduation, they say it’s the best choice.”

Jamie Levine plans to stay at the school for about another six months for a transitional program, his mother said, and then move into a group home closer to home while taking steps to become more independent.

“I know he’s going to be integrated into the community,” she said, “and be more of an active participant in society.”